Hanging from the Rafters at Anima Education

Speaking of “for the word had passed around”, we must have done somethong right with our latest round of advertising for Anima Education’s “Opening the Old Testament” course which started tonight. We mormally have classes of about a dozen, but tonight we had 42 people enrolled for the new course. We had to rearrange the room to fit them all in, and even then, they were proverbially “hanging from the rafters”. It was a real buzz for me and other AE regulars to have so many new faces, and all enthusiastic to get into the Scriptures. If you are free for the next four Monday nights, you might like to join us – I think there was still a few spaces left on the back rafter! Full details on the Anima Education website under “weeknight courses”.

PS. The current teaching load should be a clue to the lack of blogging going on on SCE. I’m also leading Wednesday night classes on Mark at Chelsea during Lent, speaking at Melbourne Carholic Singles on Divorce and Annulments this weekend, and doing the Christian Traditions course for CAEC in Sydney next month. Full details on the website.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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66 Responses to Hanging from the Rafters at Anima Education

  1. matthias says:

    Perhaps having it written in the Cathedral’s news sheet was a big help as well . Speaking asa training & development practitioner make sure you do not do stuff “out of hours” it can lead to burnout-something I am currently experiencing

  2. Gareth says:

    David,

    I will cut straight to the chase.

    From what I know of you – I admire deeply your commitment to your faith and am glad someone like you is an example to other Catholics.

    But with all respect you must know that based on past discussions on the issue, I really do not agree with you at all on your assessment on the application of annulments as currently practised in the Catholic Church.

    Any proper thinking Catholic even forming an opinion on as little as the pastoral experience of their local parish could decipher that modern-day annulnments are somewhat of a complete farce, rather than being applied only in strict circumstances as you have (I believe wrongly) have argued in the past.

    In a nutshell, I really do not think it is appropiate that you speak on the topic and hope you understand the views of some Catholics that the ‘annulnment/divorce business’ in the Catholic Church is nothing short of a scandal corrupting the faithful.

    • Schütz says:

      As in all my teaching, what I present will be in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. I am not a canon lawyer (I will make this perfectly clear) but have had personal experience of the topic in hand, which is why I have subtitled my talk “a personal experience” (the double meaning of that subtitle is intended!). I will indicate that there have been directions from the Highest Authority that the processes of annulment cases should be conducted in strict adherance to the law of the Church. Beyond that I will also counsel that when the Church has made an official and legal declaration on a case of nullity, that decision must be received by the faithful as valid and true. I have no intention (personally) of lying in bed at night wondering if I am truly married to the person in bed with me because Gareth has doubts about the matter. That way lies madness.

      • Gareth says:

        David,

        Your response is disappointing and highlights that you properly do not understand where some Catholics are coming from when they make criticism of the modern-day application of annulments.

        For one, I really did not really want to touch upon your own personal experience during discussion on the topic. From my own perspective, your personal experience was not relevant to the topic at large and I certainly do not stand in judgment of individual Catholics through a discussion board.

        My (and many other Catholics) great issue with the modern application of annulments is the abuse by the new code of canon law, which in effect has relaxed the Catholic bonds of marriage.

        A proper-thinking Catholic should know that the Church’s post Vatican II code of canon law (1983 I believe) has greatly exaggerated the concession of annulments.

        Once Catholics that are serious about adhering to true Catholic traditional teaching understands the letter of the 1983 Code and its shoddy interpretation, the Catholic should resist it as much as they can according to Catholic doctrine. That is, I am firm in that there is nothing wrong in letting others know as much as possible that paragraphs introduced in the new code of canon law are the main reason for the deluge of annulments the Church has witnessed in places such as Australia over the past thirty years. (P.S. I bet you didn’t know that in some countries the process can take up to ten years).

        In this regard, whilst Catholics have no other possibility remains but to accept the accept the validity of the juridical sentences of ecclesiastical tribunals, one has serious doubts about the legitimacy of the moral orientation being followed.

        In comparsion, is this not also the case the same logic followed (some of which you have personally argued in agreement with)with some members of the faithful and many other practices that have sadly crept into the Church over the past thirty years that whilst according to canon law appear ok, but a deeper reading demonstrates an abuse of Catholic tradition (eg communion in the hand)?

      • Catherine says:

        Hi David, it’s scary thought that anyone would lie in bed at night wondering whether they were truly married to their partner, just because Gareth does not believe in annulments.

        I have met people who discovered after marriage their partner was :a cross dresser, same sex attracted or suffering a major mental illness but according to Gareth noone deserves an annulment. It is just astounding what Gareth comes out with.

        • Schütz says:

          Catherine,

          The cases you cite, as far as I know, would only be the basis for an annulment if it were shown that in some way these characteristics prevented the spouse from actually being able to properly contract marriage at the time of the wedding. That could be – although I don’t think cross-dressing on its own would be a basis for annulment!

          • Catherine says:

            David if the wife didnt know that their spouse was a cross dresser prior to the marriage they could well be so horrified on discovery of that fact, that they couldn’t bear to have sex with their partner. Cross dressers have reported to me that they find wearing women’s clothes sexually arousing. However, I can tell you that although their partners expect their husbands to be trying to get into their pants , they envisaged that would be whilst they (the woman) was still wearing them!!

          • Catherine says:

            David, if marriage is for heterosexuals, as the Church is so keen on upholding I don’t see how a homosexual could validly marry a heterosexual. The homosexual would not be physically attracted to their partner and part of marriage is having sex. I certainly was under the impression that withholding certain key facts about oneself from one’s partner was grounds for an annulment.

            I know of numerous women who unknowingly married gay men back in the 60s only to find their husbands ( who had no interest in having sex with them) were conducting sexual liasons in public toilet blocks. I also met a man whose wife married him knowing full well she was a lesbian ( but didn’t tell him!!!).

            • Schütz says:

              A person may be “same sex attracted” but still, desiring to live according to God’s law rather than the law of the flesh, seek to live faithfully in marriage. He or she may withhold the information about their attraction to the opposite sex for the very reason that they are attempting to overcome it. This may not be a wise decision, but I can imagine it. In itself, I don’t see that this invalidates marriage, especially if the intention to live faithfully in marriage is present despite the inclination of the flesh. In the same way, a man given to lusting after other women may still contract, and in fact, by God’s grace, live out, a perfectly faithful marriage.

            • Bear says:

              Catherine,

              no, the Church requires that marriage is between a man and woman who are canonically free to marry. The particular passions of the couple are not too important.

              If you accept ontological categories for Sacramental Theology based on a person’s passions (which seems to be a trend in the modern Church), why restrict it to just their sexual passions? Why not include other passions, such as avarice or violence? Why not disqualify anyone who suffers from the other six deadly sins from marriage (and orders)?

              As a very wise Jesuit once berated me, is his vow of celibacy about keeping faith or about who is NOT sleep with?

              Similarly with marriage, the fidelity of the couple is much more important than who each other is not sleeping with.

            • Catherine says:

              http://www.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu79.htm

              This website gives a lot of information about annulments and indicates: homosexuality, alcoholism and drug addiction can be grounds for an annulment and I would certainly hope so for the sake of those who find themselves in the unhappy position of being married to someone with such a problem/s

            • Schütz says:

              The website you refer to seems fairly good but is a bit wobbly in the passage to which you refer:

              “The abuse of alcohol, cannabis or other forms of abuse and violence is hardly compatible with the Church’s definition of marriage as a community of life and love. Such are grounds for an Annulment.”

              The first sentence may be true enough, but I don’t know about the concluding one.

              I am going to be very careful on Saturday night about talking about grounds for annulment. This is best left up to the canon lawyers. I do not actually know of a specific authoritative or exhaustive list of reasons why an annulment may be granted. I do think we need to be clear though on a distiction between the actual grounds stated in decrees of nullity and the various reasons and circumstances that led the Tribunal to a decision in favour of nullity on those grounds.

            • Peregrinus says:

              David – the wording may be sloppy, but I think the suggestion is that an addiction to alchohol, etc, may call into question someone’s capacity to give or promise the self-giving which is essential to marriage.

            • Schütz says:

              Well, that would be a real worry, given that I am addicted (for lack of a better word) not only to alcohol, but to tobacco, and motorcyle riding, and pet cats (among other animals)… Perhaps that is admitting too much… I do give up alchohol for at least one day a week during Lent (anything more would be asking a great sacrifice) and don’t miss a pipe (or two) a day if I can help it…

            • Peregrinus says:

              Well, I think we may need to explore more carefully what is meant by “addiction”, David, but hopefully you would agree that there is a damaging and destructive sense of “addiction” which is meaningful and important and which can’t be appled to your habits (except possibly to your enslavement to cats).

              The argument is not that addition in any sense alway degrades the capacity to marry, but that addiction in some senses may do so.

    • Bear says:

      I fail to see how discussing elements of Sacramental Theology could be scandalous – particularly if they are relevant for pastoral concerns.

      If we were to discuss other sacraments, for example Eucharist or Communion, what what makes them valid, would this also be a scandal? For example, consider that we were to discuss why we use bread made from wheat and wine made from grapes. Would this be a scandal because some people are sensitive to gluten or have allergies to yeast? Would we avoid discussion of this if some people preferred to use bread made from rice flour and cider?

      The matter that makes up marriage is more complex (flawed humans) and less measurable. It is a straightforward question as to whether bread is made of wheat or rice, or wine is made from grapes or if it is cider made from apples and pears. Determining whether a person is mature enough or intends to marry validly can not really be measured in a laboratory. It may take some time to become clear.

      A common example is that a couple marry within the church for a number of reasons. The union is fruitful and children are produced. However, it turns out that the husband had a mistress the entire time and had no intention of remaining exclusively with his wife – then there is no marriage. We could go into excruciating details to tease out the fine points, but I think that this is clear.

      Would you deny the wife an annulment in that circumstance?

      Similarly, the church in her wisdom and determined that marriage is a public act before the congregation and before the church (in facie ecclessiae), and that this is a requirement for the validity of marriage and the sacrament. What before the church means has varied from time to time and place to place.

      For example, in Australia before the Federation, civil marriages between Catholics free to marry were considered to be before the church (in line with the Council of Trent). However, since then, in Australia the church has required that particular forms are used – although dispensations can be given by the bishop: which is in effect that the bishop is accepting the witness of a civil proceeding on behalf of the church.

      I think, however, Gareth’s difficult is not so much the Theology but the processes. There are many things that one can say about Canon Law – it is a blunt and unwieldy instrument, and that an attraction to study Canon Law is indicative of weak moral character – but it is the only instrument that we have.

      Due to the sensitivities involved, details of cases are not widely broadcast, so there are often details about particular cases which are unknown to us.

      Ultimately, however, it is the personal responsibility of the bishop to maintain the integrity of the sacraments in his diocese. If he permits actual marriages to be declared annulled, then he is personally morally culpable.

      • Gareth says:

        Bear

        The ‘extreme’ incident you mentioned is not valid here because you have not addressed my point that the new code of canon law has greatly exaggerated the concession of annulments and in effect allows ‘Catholic divorce’ in every sense of the practice without actually labelling it by the name.

        Until David or anyone else truly adresses this issue, I stand by my point that it is inappropiate for the issue to be adressed in an atmosphere where the puzzlement, frustrastions and anger of those Catholics that sincerely believe the traditional teaching of the Church is being undermined is being somewhat swept under the carpet or dismissed with the (I believe wrongly) arguement that the Church is adhering to a strict criteria, when basic pastoral experience suggests otherwise.

        May I also suggest that you re-visit the explicit Biblical passages on the matter, which the Churchs teachings supposedly meant to reflect. At the end of the day, my ‘beef’ is that the Church’s current practice is clearly out of line with our Divine Masters own words. A big and tough, but true call.

        • Tony says:

          … my ‘beef’ is that the Church’s current practice is clearly out of line with our Divine Masters own words. A big and tough, but true call.

          Sounds ‘big’, sounds ‘tough’, but ‘true’? Apparently not. As Stephen clearly points out, for Catholics ‘If an annulment is valid, by the Church’s own theology it must be moral’.

          • Gareth says:

            I and many Catholics have outlined time and time again why the modern annulnment system (speaking at a macro level) is a pathetic joke not to be taken seriously by those serious about adhering to Catholic tradition, but to repeat it to someone that doesnt appear to uphold much of the Churchs teachings would be a waste of time.

            • Tony says:

              It’s not those who don’t ‘appear to uphold much of the Church’s teachings’ that is the problem for you and the alleged ‘many’, Gareth.

              You, and the alleged ‘many’, can hold to any version of tradition you set your mind to but the fact that such versions are held by you and however many the many are, makes no difference.

            • Catherine says:

              Gareth, you say you have outlined time and time again why annulments are terrible. Guess what? You are not going to convince anyone you are right so lunacy lies in repeating yourself over and over.

              Human relationships are fraught with difficulty. People often have personality disorders, and other undisclosed psychological issues which make a marriage nigh on impossible. Some people enter into marriage totally unprepared and incapable of being married.

              Working with people in a counselling context, I am amazed at the level of ignorance of fairly basic relationship matters, people’s inability to communicate etc

              My beef with the catholic chuch would not be that annulments are granted but that it is way too easy to get married.
              I would subject anyone intending to get married to the MMPI2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory)and have both parties share and discuss their results with each other and a trained counsellor, so they were clear on personality structure of the person they were shackling themself to for life.
              I would also make them read WHY marriages succeed or fail by John Gottman. They would also have to read His needs, Her needs, building a affair proof marriage by Willard Harley.I think a text on appropriate partner selection would also be advisable.
              I would set an exam and a pass mark and there would be no marriage unless they got a passing grade.

            • Tony says:

              Not sure I’d be so proscriptive, Catherine, but I think you touch on what could be a real gift to the whole community: ways of helping people make good decisions about marriage.

              It’s one of the ways the church could be more relevant to now with more ‘do’s’ than ‘don’ts’.

            • Gareth says:

              Yes it is Tony.

              After all these years of dissenting against the Churchs teaching, you come out with a liner that we have to morally accept what a dodgy Church ‘marriage’ tribunal declares no-matter how much it contradicts Church teaching/extremly dubious way it was orientated.

              Tony, please stop wasting people’s time.

            • Gareth says:

              Catherine: I think a text on appropriate partner selection would also be advisable.

              Good idea Catherine – you would be right on the unadvisable.

            • Tony says:

              Again Gareth, I’m not your problem.

              You haven’t convinced anyone in this little corner of Catholicism of your POV and you’d be hard pressed to dismiss them in the way you dismiss me.

            • Gareth says:

              Tony,

              I find you so hypocritical.

              You are the first one to stand up and say that you are personally hurt by the
              Church abuse scandal and petition other Church members to share in your pain and reflect in the bad publicity that it costs the Church.

              YET on the other hand, when other Church members stand up and say they are personally hurt by what they perceive as a Church practice that is at odds with Church tradition/causes scandal to the faithful, you dismiss them out of hand and appear to somewhat ridicule of their personal pain by suggesting in a sarcastic manner they are not convincing three people on a discussion board (a simple google would reveal that what I have argued is shared by many Catholics?)

              I just don’t get it Tony – you cant have it both ways, either sincerely listen to what other Catholics have or like I said, stop wasting peoples time.

            • Tony says:

              First you hurl insults, Gareth, then inform me that I’m wasting your time and everyone elses and now you want engage in conversation based on your ‘verballing’ of my views?

              I don’t think so.

            • Gareth says:

              Tony,

              Listen just for once.

              You argued that I and many Catholics are wrong in doubting the morally dubious/xcessive decisions that Catholic marriage tribunals make along the lines of ‘the Church says so, it must be so’.

              Well I find that a pretty hypocritical stance to take after ten years of arguing the exact opposite on your behalf on various boards.

              Then you you claim my opinions are to be dismissed because I couldnt ‘convince’ three people on a blog discussion.

              If you think what people write in which they are personally hurt by is not to be acknowledged because it is all about ‘convincing others’ then I sincerly think you are not interested in entering into a faith-based discussion and would rather play games/argue for no reason instead of coming half way and taking on board the stong points others make after putting in efforts to their posts

              Enough is enough. Wasting my time no more

            • Tony says:

              You argued that I and many Catholics are wrong … along the lines of ‘the Church says so, it must be so’.

              No Gareth, I haven’t made such an argument.

              Well I find that a pretty hypocritical …

              To be hypocritical it would have to be an argument I made, but I didn’t.

              Then you you claim my opinions are to be dismissed …

              More verballing, Gareth. I’ve never made such a claim.

              If you think what people write in which they are personally hurt by is not to be acknowledged …

              Again, I’ve never said anything approaching that.

              Enough is enough. Wasting my time no more

              Your choice, Gareth. No objections here.

  3. Stephen K says:

    Gareth, speaking to the formality of argument, rather than to the substance of the subject of annulment itself, may I just offer a couple of observations here?

    That the sight of annulments being declared in respect of some (or many) marriages might be galling to some other people literally suffering in unhappy but doggedly persistent marriages is not to be doubted. That, without personal experience of pastoral understanding by clergy for such nigh-intolerable situations, a person might resent bitterly the apparently blanket official insistence on the permanence and presumption of public marriages, is understandable.

    But if one’s objection or offence about how the official tribunals operate is based solely or even mainly on an insistence that the doctrine must have no qualifications or be seen to admit of no distinctions at the human and pastoral level, I think it reflects a particularly unrealistic or unforgiving view of the human situation. You made the comment that some countries take 10 years to complete the annulment process in a context which I took to mean that you approved. Do you have any conception of how unjust, indeed how cruel, such a time frame – or anything approaching it – would be to the parties involved? People who are married, whether sacramentally or civilly, are in dynamic dyadic relationships, that do not stop in semi-freeze at any moment, but continually evolve, grow or die.

    Our secular courts take great pains to avoid delays that deprive parties of liberty or impose burdensome prejudice, to ensure a fair trial. In the case of the realm of spiritual concepts, there would be a widespread recognition, I think, of the unreasonableness and great harm delays in decision can cause. The quickness of annulments – if that is a fact – would be an indicator of pastoral care, not carelessness.

    Mind you, in pointing this perspective out, I am in no way commenting on annulments themselves or the diverse understandings or experiences of marriage. Your view of annulments might be from one angle quite logical and internally consistent. Others might object to annulments for other reasons too, such as thinking them an artificial construct and the Church’s assertion of jurisdiction an empty one. I am simply saying that one has to see the consequences of what might ostensibly be intended as a “pure” approach to doctrines and practice.

    The second thing was your recommendation that Catholics who believe in the permanence of marriage and object to annulments have no option but to accept the validity of annulment declarations but to doubt their moral quality.

    Seriously, this is very flawed. If an annulment is valid, by the Church’s own theology it must be moral. Moreover, as some people are always at pains to insist, faithful Catholics must accept Church sacramental declarations as morally certain. In this area, if you accept validity, you must accept morality. The option of splitting the two aspects is probably only available for dissenters, heretics or agnostics and sinners (like me). I don’t think you have that luxury.

    Thirdly, as David has pointed out, he intends explaining the Church’s official logic – not his – about annulments.

    Finally, it never fails to strike me that the dividing line between personal application and usurping Protestantism is always very blurred and perilous. I don’t go so far as to say that the only truly Catholic position is to parrot or reproduce the highest or latest most authoritative catechetical source, for this would simply represent the caricature of the blind-faith Catholic. But interpretation arguments are fraught with the possibilities of over-reaching that mysterious line. As an example, some think Archbishop Lefebvre was essentially just another Protestant; his followers would of course reject that. At any rate we certainly seem to have Catholics who are Protestants and Protestants who are quite Catholic. It starts to get a bit enmeshed, even meaningless, doesn’t it? But, each time someone insists on a “purer” approach in religious matters, I think it gets crossed.

    • Gareth says:

      Stephen, I don’t wish to extend the discussion on annulments much
      further as the original intent of David’s entry appears to be the
      boost in numbers at the Anima Education course in Melbourne, which of course is of course something to be celebrated and we should pray for such initiatives.

      Anyhow, I will finish my own points stating I do not see eye to eye with
      firstly with your comment on the time/difficulty that the annulnment process takes place being not just – I beg to differ – the great difficulty still in place in some countries and before Vatican II proved that the Catholic Church actually believed what it taught about the permanency of marriage.

      Secondly, I disagree that is contradictory to while having to
      accept a judicial decision, one can be morally opposed. This moral
      opposition could sit with any decision in life.

      The common Catholic or outsider are not stupid.

      More and more Catholics are generally seeong that there is a great inconsistency happening that unfortunately spreads to damage the faith of the Catholic people regarding the permanence of marriage: http://www.uscatholic.org/life/2008/07/annulments-what-never-was
      http://www.ewtn.com/library/marriage/annul.txt

      I generally do not see how someone that is morally opposed to what they perceive as the indissolubility of marriage and other Catholic dogmas being thrown out the window as not being justified in taking a just stance.

      • Catherine says:

        If there has been a ten year delay in the decision making process of an annulment I would argue there is gross bureaucratic incompetence and/or understaffing rather than anything about belief in the permanency of marriage.

        I would assume a file got lost or put in the wrong tray, and hadn’t seen the light of the day.

        I believe annulments in Melbourne generally take a year or two
        and to me that seems slow but people are given time to respond and witnesses have to make themselves available for interview etc.

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks for another great post Stephen K.

      • Stephen K says:

        Thank you for your kind comment, Catherine. Actually, your recommendation that it is not the ease of annulments that is the problem but the ease of marriage I heartily and fully endorse. I think you hit on the real problem. I actually think many people (and I was one of them) are far too immature to undertake marriage when they do. You have identified the real problem, and this is why marital ethics and the whole idea of holiness through relationship is not simple or simplistic. I think this whole area of presumption about marriages is so bound up with public witness and estimation and less/not enough with the psychological and emotional and physical dynamics day in and day out. It leads to a lot of dissonance between what people are led and culturally conditioned to hope for, and their unpreparedness to know what it is they are supposedly committing to.

        In my view the ceremony does not make a marriage or a sacrament. The thing-that-happens-between-a-couple is what does. It’s not something to be reduced to a mere efficiency, a vehicle for the “better nurture of offspring”, a nuclear nursery, a dynastic arrangement or better accumulation of assets.

        I am not surprised that you are a counsellor. You always reflect an appreciation of the complexity and frequent enigma of people’s states of mind even to, and perhaps most of all, to themselves. Your advice that people should, as Socrates enjoined, “know themselves” first, is a very sound one, in my view. A lot of heartache might be saved.

        I don’t want to try to gild your lily, Catherine. You have identified a real problem very neatly, one that Gareth would do well, in my view again, to take more account of.

        It is nice to hear from you. You make me realise new things and bring alive to me new and insightful nuances in the ways to look at issues. I have genuinely missed you. I look forward to reading more posts from you.

      • Schütz says:

        Catherine, I just lost a long comment I had written, so I will make it shorter and post it again.

        I think your suggestion of improved marriage preparation is the right solution to Gareth’s concerns about the increasing rates of annulments.

        1) Lack of formation in marriage makes valid marriage more difficult to contract
        2) Conversely, better formation in marriage makes it more likely that true valid marriages will be contracted
        3) Conclusion: fewer annulments.

        The evidence is that it is in fact the modern Western phenomenon of an across-the-board lack of formation or knowledge in what marriage truly is (cf. the current debate on same sex “marriage” as exhibit one) which has resulted in the huge increase in recent decades in the number of annulments granted.

        • Gareth says:

          Mmm,

          David and Catherine.

          It is a pretty good idea and I have no doubts that the local Church should reflect deeper upon this, but remembering that the majority of Catholics that are married inside a Church (whether regularly practising or not) do go through somesort of marriage preparation before the big day, even if this is as simple as quick one-hour sessions for a few months reading Catechism type material.

          This is much more preparation than what people entering into a purely secular-based marriage or some other Christian Churchs would receive

          If a two fully grown adults put their hand up for marriage, and they go through marriage preparation – the local parish cant hold their hands for the rest of their life?

          Me thinks that the issue of addressing the root cause of the problem (eg new code of canon law) would set better precedence.

        • Tony says:

          I can’t fault your logic, David, but I find it a little perverse (not meant to be personally offensive!) and simplistic.

          It may be that the church — or at least parts of it — are more open to the complexity and frailty of human relationships. I hope so, anyhow.

          • Schütz says:

            Annulments are not granted purely on the basis of “the complexity and frailty of human relationships”, Tony. There has to a demonstrable reason why, at the time marriage was contracted, at least one of the couple were unable or unwilling to contract it with the right intention and with full consent. I am simply saying that the widespread lack of understanding of the true nature of marriage has at least contributed to the widespread failure to contract valid marriages (the evidence for the latter being the increasing number of marriages that are today being granted decrees of nullity).

            That’s all.

  4. Peregrinus says:

    Tony may not be able to fault your logic, David, but I’m going to have a go.

    The evidence is that it is in fact the modern Western phenomenon of an across-the-board lack of formation or knowledge in what marriage truly is (cf. the current debate on same sex “marriage” as exhibit one) which has resulted in the huge increase in recent decades in the number of annulments granted.

    I’m not seeing a lot of evidence for “across the board formation or knowledge in what marriage truly is” in the decades [i]before[/i] the huge increase in the number of annulments granted. It may that in times past we didn’t debate same-sex marriage. On the other hand, we often [i]did[/i], e.g., regard marriage as the appropriate response to an unintended pregnancy. And if formal marriage preparation is inadequate today, it was all but non-existent before.

    We have to give Gareth at least this; canonical practice has hugely developed its understanding of what capacity to marry, and consent to marry, requires, and there can really be no doubt that this results in annulments being granted today in circumstances in which they would not have been, say, forty or fifty years ago. The issue for debate is not whether this has happened, but whether it has [i]rightly[/i] happened.

    But I think there’s another factor at work here. A significant proportion of annulments are granted on the basis that a Catholic has married without canonical form, and without a dispensation. There’s nothing new about this; the marriage of a Catholic without canonical form and without dispensation has been invalid since Trent. What has changed is the greater number of Catholics contracting such marriages. Gareth may regret the number of Catholics doing this – and he wouldn’t be alone – but if he were to argue that the grant of annulments in these circumstances was immoral, then he would very much be attacking the traditional (for values of “traditional” which equal “Tridentine”) Catholic position. And that is not normally his way.

    Why are so many Catholics doing this? Well, secularization, partly. Many of Catholic who marry in this way are nominal Catholics. But it also due to a much greater propensity for Catholics to marry non-Catholics. I myself was married in an Anglican church. I got a dispensation, but it strains credibility to suggest that, had I not been aware of the need to do so, or had there been some foul-up with the paperwork, that my marriage would have been sacramentally a nullity.

    Catherine, the more and better marriage preparation and discernment, the better. I think, though, that if this is to be effective it has to begin well before a couple actually contemplate marriage (and probably well before they have met).

    • Catherine says:

      Peregrinus, I agree with you that in terms of marriage/relationship education, it is a case of the sooner the better

    • Schütz says:

      Perry, you touch on at least three topics in your comment.

      1) “across the board formation or knowledge in what marriage truly is” in the decades before the huge increase in the number of annulments granted”

      In my original comment, which was lost due to a communications breakdown, I wanted to make the point that in traditional societies (and that includes pre-60’s western society) formation in the true nature of marriage was inculcated as a part of societal norms. Those societal norms began to breakdown before anyone noticed a problem, and in today’s Western societies the breakdown is almost complete. Thus we have to find “artificial” ways of communicating this truth, such as pre-marriage preparation courses, when in the past there was no necessity for such courses.

      2) “canonical practice has hugely developed its understanding of what capacity to marry, and consent to marry, requires”

      This is true, but the teaching of the Church about the necessity for a “capacity to marry and consent to marry” for a valid marriage has not changed. Tribunal investigations tend to go much deeper today than surface level facts. This is, to use the Pope’s ideas expressed to the Roman Rota recently, simply a matter of seeking true (rather than superficial) justice. It isn’t a change in the teaching or the law of the Church.

      3) Finally, your point about annulments being granted on the basis of a breach of Canon Law is also true. Such cases tend to be very swift, however, and I don’t think even Gareth would complain about them. When one marries, one must comply with all the laws to which that marriage is subject. This applies in the Church as well as the State. Interestingly, baptised non-Catholics don’t have this “get out of jail free” card. I was not subject to Canon Law when I attempted to contract my first marriage, and therefore, despite the fact that it took place outside of a Catholic Church, with a non-Catholic minister, and with a non-Catholic rite, I could not have recourse to this as an excuse for annulment. I am not sure about this, but I think this situation only came in when the Catholic Church clearly recognised the validity of protestant baptism, and thus clearly recognised the sacramental nature of marriages between baptised non-Catholics.

      • Gareth says:

        Hi David,

        I thought that as you have accused me of (I would say unfairly) in your first response of having ‘doubts’ about your personal experience – I thought now was the time to specify that although I have used the strongest language possible to describe the Church’s modern annulment system, I honestly have no opinion or even care about your individual experience.

        My criticisms was always that you didn’t seem to appear to truly understand where people were coming from where they took aim at the system that led to excessive bending of the criteria and ultimately what they perceive as undermining traditional Catholic teaching on the permeance of marriage, which any Christian should constantly remind themselves of the Lord’s actual direct words.

        • Schütz says:

          “Bending the criteria” would be wrong – cf. Benedict’s reference to “creative” application of Canon Law in his speech to the Rota. I think you are going further than that. You appear to be questioning the authority of the Church to declare on such matters. Every case of annulment is “personal”, so the doubts you raise also refer to my own personal situation.

          • Gareth says:

            David: Every case of annulment is “personal”, so the doubts you raise also refer to my own personal situation.

            Gareth: Disagree with you David.

            Getting down to the nitty gritty of canon law, my own personal disenchantement with the new Catholic canon law is that due to some of the new wacky new criteria added in 1983 such as ‘lack of due discrection’, one could just about use any argument to pass as an ‘invalid marriage’.

            Due to this criteria alone, there is really literally anything that one could fit into as an annulnment and if you dont believe me, read the following: http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/a-wife-is-for-life-pope-gets-tough-on-marriage/2007/01/29/1169919274625.html

            Before the new code of canon law came in the Church would never even contemplate probably as high as 90 per cent of annulnments that are granted now. Hence some Catholics frustration that things have gone too far.

            I am justified in holding to the above and not having an opinion on your personal situation because I literally do not know or not care on what precise criteria your personal experience fitted into to and at the top of head would presume by the fact that you are a convert would not fit into the average individual cases that personally make me irate (eg a practising Catholic married with children over a long period of time).

            Also I find fault with your ‘every case is personal’ talk – surely the average Catholic in the pew has a right to some sort of transperancy and accountability to know why the Church on one hand teaches divorce is a grave evil that is forbidden on all circumstances, but yet witnessing there fellow Catholics in the pews ‘getting a ticket out of jail free’ (as someone described it here – see article above to justify my views) and when it comes down to it would probably be incapable themselves on giving a concrete explanation on precisely why .

            • Peregrinus says:

              “Getting down to the nitty gritty of canon law, my own personal disenchantement with the new Catholic canon law is that due to some of the new wacky new criteria added in 1983 such as ‘lack of due discrection’, one could just about use any argument to pass as an ‘invalid marriage’”

              Lack of due discretion was not a “wacky new criterion” in the 1983 Code; it was in the 1917 code in precisely those words, and it wasn’t new even in 1917. What has changed is the understanding of what “due discretion” is, and what it requires.

              And that has changed because the canonical statement of the end of marriage has changed. Canon 1013 of the 1917 code stated baldly that “the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children”. It went on to mention fidelity and indissolubility, but these were presented as “properties” of the marriage essential to support the “end” of marriage. Hence “due discretion” was understood in terms of the spouses’ ability to understand how children are procreated, and a parent’s duty to the children they have begotten.

              But the new code deals with the ends of marriage by quoting Gaudium et spes; “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” (Canon 1055) It introduces the notions of “partnership” and “the good of the spouses” along with procreation and education and, inevitably, this greatly widens how the concept of “due discretion” is understood.

              But, to go back to my earlier point, this seems to me exactly what Pope Benedict is calling for; canon law has to be tied back to, and rooted in, what we believe, and Gaudium et spes is an authoritative statement of what we believe. It’s the appropriate starting point for the canonical treatment of marriage, and we can’t refuse to start there because we don’t like the outcome.

      • Peregrinus says:

        In my original comment, which was lost due to a communications breakdown, I wanted to make the point that in traditional societies (and that includes pre-60?s western society) formation in the true nature of marriage was inculcated as a part of societal norms. Those societal norms began to breakdown before anyone noticed a problem, and in today’s Western societies the breakdown is almost complete. Thus we have to find “artificial” ways of communicating this truth, such as pre-marriage preparation courses, when in the past there was no necessity for such courses.

        Again, though, I’m not seeing a lot of evidence that in the past “formation in the true nature of marriage was inculcated as a part of societal norms”. It’s not difficult to point to societal norms which would have [i]undermined[/i] a good understanding of the true nature of marriage (like the pressure to marry in response to pregnancy). What we can say is that the rate of marriage breakdown (resulting in separation or divorce) was much lower. While this is consistent with the thought that people were better prepared for marriage, it’s also consistent with less edifying thoughts, such as that in a less prosperous society people simply couldn’t [i]afford[/i] separation or divorce, or that in less emancipated times women couldn’t pursue, or perhaps even consider, separation or divorce in circumstances when now they can. Or, perhaps, people just had more limited expectations of what marriage could and should be. (Of course, “more limited expectations” could, depending on your point of view, be “more realistic expectations”.)

        I think this is complex. I also think we need to decide whether the goal of better marriage preparation is fewer invalid marriages – i.e. equipping more people with the proper knowledge, and the emotional and psychological competence, needed to contract a marriage, or fewer marriage breakdowns. We might hope that if people are better equipped to contract a valid marriage, the relationship is less likely to break down. But we don’t yet know that that is the case.

        Interestingly, baptised non-Catholics don’t have this “get out of jail free” card. I was not subject to Canon Law when I attempted to contract my first marriage, and therefore, despite the fact that it took place outside of a Catholic Church, with a non-Catholic minister, and with a non-Catholic rite, I could not have recourse to this as an excuse for annulment. I am not sure about this, but I think this situation only came in when the Catholic Church clearly recognised the validity of protestant baptism, and thus clearly recognised the sacramental nature of marriages between baptised non-Catholics.
        It’s certainly true that the disparity of treatment between Catholics and non-Catholics in this regard can be quite jarring. In my work with RCIA groups I’ve come across more than one case where a candidate in a long and happy second marriage is dismayed to find that their non-Catholic first marriage – to another non-Catholic – is an impediment to reception, while someone else’s non-Catholic first marriage involving an (often nominal) Catholic can be waved away quite easily. I understand the steps which lead to this conclusion; I just feel that the outcome is so jarring that it really calls for the thinking to be revisited.

        As for the sacramental validity of Protestant-Protestant marriages, as you rightly say this would always have depended on the validity of the (presumably Protestant) baptisms which the couple had received. In the past converts from Protestantism to Catholicism were usually conditionally baptized, on the basis of the difficulty of saying with confidence that they have been validly baptized. When it came to their marriages, however, there was (and still is) a canonical presumption as to the validity and sacramentality of a marriage. Consequently I think a Protestant-Protestant marriage would have been presumed to be sacramentally valid, unless it could be shown that one or both spouses were not sacramentally baptized. Since the rationale for routine rebaptism was that this question could not often be answered, the implication is that the presumption of sacramentality of the marriage could not often be rebutted.

        • Tony says:

          In my work with RCIA groups I’ve come across more than one case where a candidate in a long and happy second marriage is dismayed to find that their non-Catholic first marriage – to another non-Catholic – is an impediment to reception, while someone else’s non-Catholic first marriage involving an (often nominal) Catholic can be waved away quite easily. I understand the steps which lead to this conclusion; I just feel that the outcome is so jarring that it really calls for the thinking to be revisited.

          I remember going to a state RCIA conference a few years ago, Pere, and the first half of the day was devoted to Canon Law with particular focus on how it effects RCIA candidates.

          It was a turning point for me. It was so complex and obscure that its real purpose — to find ways of welcoming individuals into the church — was well and truly lost. Canon Law seemed to me to be a tower of Babel getting ever higher in the pursuit of height.

          Similarly with annulment, it seems to be directed towards people at their worst not encouraging people to be at their best.

          • Peregrinus says:

            Tony, a part of me suspects that we have painted ourselves into a bit of a corner on the whole question of marriage and nullity. There are historical reasons for this, with the Western Church having to some extent to step into the shoes of the state with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. One consequence of this was the growth of a culture in which the church didn’t simply discern and proclaim the sacramental significance of marriage; it took upon itself the function, formerly that of the community at large, of determining whether people were married. And it did that, perhaps inevitably, in a law-based way.

            It’s interesting to contrast the position of Eastern Christians. The Eastern tradition proclaims, with the West, the sacramental significance of Christian marriage and the permanent nature of sacramental marriage. But its response to the reality of marriage breakdown, when it occurs, is somewhat different.

            When a marriage breaks down in the East, the appropriate response is to work to restore it. But if that proves impossible, then the appropriate response is to explore why this has happened, to acknowledge the role and reality of sin in the breakdown, and to repent. (Because of the permanent nature of sacramental marriage, there is a presumption that the failure of such a marriage involves sin on someone’s part.) Marriage breakdown can be compared to, e.g. murder. It’s absolutely and seriously sinful, and it calls for repentance. But a murdered man is still dead, and a broken marriage is still broken. “What God has put together let man not put asunder” doesn’t mean that we cannot destroy our marriages, but that in doing so we sin, we fail.

            As a result of this perspective, following scrutiny and repentance a second marriage is possible in the Eastern churches. The second marriage is not viewed as a sacramental marriage – a second sacramental marriage is impossible while the first spouse lives – but it is a natural and fruitful relationship and it can be appropriate to enter into it, having repented, learned and hopefully grown as a result of confronting the failure of the first marriage. You need the agreement of your bishop that you have reached a point where a second marriage is appropriate, and third and subsequent marriages are almost unheard of, so it’s in no sense an “easy ticket” to remarriage.

            It seems to me that this approach has a lot to commend it. We know that, while some marriages break down because of problems which subsisted from the very beginning, other breakdowns cannot be explained in this way. This approach doesn’t distinguish between the two classes; it encourages engagement with the causes of the breakdown, whenever they were, and offers the opportunity for repentance and growth. It also acknowledges that the marriage relationship, though endowed with enduring sacramental significance, is a human relationship and, like any human relationship, it can come to an end.

            • Tony says:

              Brilliant stuff, Pere. It is a corner I’d love to see the church paint itself out of for the reasons you allude to. It’s hard to imagine it happening though, there are too many who want to make the corner even smaller.

            • What are your sources for what you write here about marriage in the “Eastern tradition”?

    • Gareth says:

      Pere: but if he were to argue that the grant of annulments in these circumstances was immoral…..

      Gareth: I disagree here slightly.

      I think that Catholics rhetoric such as myself about the dubious moral orientation followed when an annulnment is granted (even in the case of ‘lack of form’) is that although Catholic legalism dictates that there is no judicial error, it is the peoples intentions that really counts.

      Now come on Pere, even you would be game enough to admit that most Catholics that are allowed to re-marry due to their first marriage not meeting the Church’s (I would say outdated and even discriminatory) criteria due to ‘lack of canonical form’ are not doing so because their intentions is to be faithful to the Churchs traditional prescription for contracting a correct marriage, but rather it is an ‘easy’ way for them to enter into a second marriage.

      Indeed if they truly cared that the Church found error in the way that their first marriage was entered into, would not they make every effort to ensure they amended the issue with their first marriage and save it??

      How do I draw such a judgement on this – I know of more than a few fellow parishoners that were allowed to re-marry because they found such a quirk in the system and they generally could not care less about the Church’s laws on contracting a true marriage – they simply wanted to get remarried as soon as possible and were laughing all the way when the Church allowed it with such relative ease. Not to mention they were also laughing about their easy no-fault divorce.

      Annulnments due to lack of form have becoming something that the fathers of Trent never envisioned. The Church’s teaching on the matter should aim to ensure more Catholics actually do enter into a marriage by correct means, not to allow easy re-marriage which in effect is divorce in every way way besides the name.

      • Peregrinus says:

        Hi Gareth

        I think that Catholics rhetoric such as myself about the dubious moral orientation followed when an annulnment is granted (even in the case of ‘lack of form’) is that although Catholic legalism dictates that there is no judicial error, it is the peoples intentions that really counts.

        With respect, I think you’re making a false distinction there. Leaving aside the “want of form” cases, what you describe as “Catholic legalism” is in fact a close examination of people’s intentions, isn’t it?

        Now come on Pere, even you would be game enough to admit that most Catholics that are allowed to re-marry due to their first marriage not meeting the Church’s (I would say outdated and even discriminatory) criteria due to ‘lack of canonical form’ are not doing so because their intentions is to be faithful to the Churchs traditional prescription for contracting a correct marriage, but rather it is an ‘easy’ way for them to enter into a second marriage.

        Well, people don’t seek an annulment unless their first relationship has in fact broken down – and, even then, they often don’t seek an annulment unless they want to remarry. So, are they seeking an annulment because they wish to remarry? Yes, mostly. Are they looking for an “easy way” to remarry? No – the “easy way” would be to remarry civilly, or in another denomination. And, remember, these are people who have already married outside the church once, so they don’t have a fundamental problem with the idea. They seek an annulment because, for whatever reason, it has become important to them to marry within the church. Is that not a development that we should welcome?

        Indeed if they truly cared that the Church found error in the way that their first marriage was entered into, would not they make every effort to ensure they amended the issue with their first marriage and save it??

        As I say, I don’t think people get annlments simply because they find they have grounds for them. They don’t even consider the question unless their marriage has, in fact, broken down, and I don’t think we can generalise and say that they didn’t make every effort to sustain and repair their marriages.

        If your relationship is subsisting but you discover that your marriage is invalid for want of canonical form (or indeed for any other reason) then the appropriate response is to seek a convalidation. And, while I don’t have any figures, my impression is that the number of convalidations, like the number of annulments, has risen sharply in recent times. I don’t think there is any evidence that, because annulments are easier to get, therefore more marriages are breaking down. Lots of people who could get an annulment choose to convalidate their marrage instead.

        How do I draw such a judgement on this – I know of more than a few fellow parishoners that were allowed to re-marry because they found such a quirk in the system and they generally could not care less about the Church’s laws on contracting a true marriage – they simply wanted to get remarried as soon as possible and were laughing all the way when the Church allowed it with such relative ease. Not to mention they were also laughing about their easy no-fault divorce.

        These people may not be admirable, but that doesn’t mean that they were validly married the first time around, and an annulment is not a reward for virtue or victimhood. If you think about it, the church’s understanding of what a valid marriage requires means that invalidity of marriage very often stems from our fallen nature. You’d expect the people whose marriages are invalid to be fallen, and fairly obviously so, at least as much and probably more than the general run of the population.

        Annulnments due to lack of form have becoming something that the fathers of Trent never envisioned. The Church’s teaching on the matter should aim to ensure more Catholics actually do enter into a marriage by correct means, not to allow easy re-marriage which in effect is divorce in every way way besides the name.
        Annulments due to lack of form are exactly what the fathers of Trent envisaged. What they didn’t envisage was the number of Catholics who would marry non-canonically when the social and cultural supports which used to make ecclesiastical marriage the norm were removed.

        • Catherine says:

          As much I am loathe to agree with you on anything Gareth I do think these lack of form annulments are pretty bogus. I am all for annulments on other grounds though. I have read that women have only to be 14 and men 16 to be married and that reeks of lunacy but that’s Canon law. Don’t tell me teenagers know what they are getting themselves into at that age.

      • Catherine says:

        I’would just like to know where all these annulled catholic men are;). I hardly ever meet a catholic divorced man who has an annulment as they wouldn’t bother applying for one as they wouldn’t know they required one, and would happil remarry outside the catholic church.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Every annulment involves one man and one women, Catherine! An equal number of men and women have been parties to an annulled marriage.

      • Catherine says:

        ps Gareth, I know a few people with annulments ( and I believe they deserved to get them) and they are so deeply scarred by the partners cheating on them/divorcing them , that I very much doubt they will ever remarry. A lot of annulled people think they want to remarry but lack insight into the fact that are terrified of being hurt again and are just playing at dating. If they start getting even remotely close to someone they panic and run as fast as they can in opposite direction. Some people get annulments as part of their healing process, it makes them feel better when they are declared to never have been sacramentally married.

        • Gareth says:

          ps Catherine

          I thank you for sharing your experience, but in my own personal experience I have known quite a few Catholics (most married with cchildren over a long period of time) who literally would not even know why they were given an annulnment, all because some liberally-minded people on a so-called tribunal found some weird reason that they fitted the Church’s new criteria strangely inserted into the canon law in 1983 of ‘lack of due discretion’ (what the heck does that mean??).

          Read the article from the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 that I posted above if you dont believe my point.

          In the Catholic Church, there is meant to be NO divorce (based on Our Lord’s directives and you cant argue with that) (I acknowledge there is sometimes a rare case where there is grounds for separatio or the Churchs pre-Vatican II very strict grounds for an invalid marriage), but somehow since the 1970s, something has been lost in translation.

          It would be nice if you at least contemplated these points Catherine and the pain that divorce causes to children/society.

          • Catherine says:

            Divorce can be a blessing to families,it all depends on the individual circumstances of each case. I have seen women, and men, who are married to violent/drug addicted/alcoholic/mentally unwell and unmedicated partners for years and years. They put up with terrible abuse from their partners because of religious/cultural/financial reasons and by doing so expose their children to emotional and/or physical and even sexual abuse.

            The best thing these people could have done for their children would have been to get a divorce and remove their children and themselves from a very damaging situation. Yet they stayed, to the massive detriment of themselves and their children. I am sure God wants these people to get divorced.

  5. Victoria says:

    I promised to be with my husband in sickness and in health and when he developed a serious mental illness; he had probably had it since he was a teenager – it didn’t occur to me to seek an annulment. If I had ended the marriage who would have cared for him? Does that mean that everytime we discover our marriage isn’t perfect we throw in the towel and move on? Perhaps that is what is wrong with marriage today.

    • Catherine says:

      Victoria, if you have managed to remain married under difficult circumstances, I take my hat off to you, but some people would crack under the strain and the whole family would go under. What might be appropriate for a childfree marriage may well be different for a marriage where there are children who are going to be irreparably harmed by being exposed to violent,unpredictable, frightening etc behaviour.

      Some people do need to leave their partner’s for the sake of their own sanity andor to protect the welfare of their children.

      • Gareth says:

        The only problem with the general line of thinking that incorporates the ‘divorce mentality’ is it is in total contradiction with the explicit Bilblical passages of Our Lord.

        • Catherine says:

          Gareth, the catholic church does not forbid divorce. It only forbids remarriage ( if you do not have an annulment).There is nothing wrong with leaving your spouse if their behaviour is intolerable, Marriage does not give people a licence to mistreat/bash/ their spouse and children. If the erring spouse does not wish to be divorced, they have only themselves to blame for driving their partner away with their abusive behaviour.

          • Gareth says:

            Catherine,

            Don’t shoot the messenger.

            The Lord said marriage was forever.

            • Catherine says:

              The fact you have married the person remains but that doesn’t mean you have to live to live them and let them make your life a misery. I’m just grateful you are not a priest Gareth, as if you were, I assumeyou would counsel battered spouses to stay with their abusive partners until they were bashed to death or permanently injured

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